Home  |  Reviews  |  Vlogs  |  Interviews  |  Guest Posts  |  Fairy Tales  |  Jane Austen  |  Memes  |  Policies

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Persuasion: a Discussion

[I've decided to do discussions of the major 6 rather than reviews, as a)generally people know what the stories are about, and b)obviously I like love the books, or we wouldn't be having Jane in June, now would we? So if you aren't familiar with Jane's stories and don't want them spoiled, avert thine eyes.
So here is the discussion for Persuasion. Feel free to discuss it back in the comments or in a blog post.]

"All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone."
She could not immediately have uttered another sentence; her heart was too full, her breath too much oppressed.

Let me start by saying that I think Persuasion is one of the most underrated works, not just of Austen, but of English literature, period. All of Austen's great strengths are represented in the story of Anne Elliot, but with some tweaks and some subtlety that elevates it somewhat above the others (even the perennial fan favorite, P&P).

Anne is possibly Austen's most rootforable heroine.  She's timid and a bit of an underdog, and she's surrounded by a ridiculous family that does not appreciate her as they should.  She is forced to watch as the man she loves flirts with, and possibly entangles himself with, a silly -- younger -- girl.  Even with all of the comic relief provided by her ridiculous relations, Anne's story is a fairly dark one.  Though the reader has hope -- it is Austen, afterall -- Anne herself has none.  This makes you feel for her I think more than any other Austen character.

But I make it sound depressing.  It's not.  It's a very bittersweet story.  It may lack some of Austen's characteristic light touch, but it's still there.  But it's more adult than her stories, generally, more mature.  It's a story of redemption, of learning to hope, "when existence or when hope is gone."  I have a sneaking suspicion (and I'm not the only one) that it is the closest to Jane's personal life as she will let us get, though unfortunately for her, she never got her happy ending as Anne did.

Another thing that sets Persuasion apart: the role reversal.  People love the depictions of class and society in Austen's stories, and in most cases, the woman is of a less wealthy, less prominent family than is the man.  In Persuasion, it is deemed by Anne's family that Captain Wentworth (then, not yet a Cptn) is beneath the Elliot family.  It's interesting to have that little switch and see how much harder it is for a woman to marry for love when her love is below her station, not above it.  A man may do as he wishes for love, but a woman may not.  (<-- at some point, this thought is going to be linked to an interesting little discussion, so come back and check in a week or so...)

But what do we really read this story for?  It's the reunion, of course.  All of those little flutters that you get when they almost seem to be ready for each other again, it all builds up until you can take no more -- and then you get the letter.
Enough said.

Here's the trailer to the 2007 version:


  1. This is my all-time favorite Austen novel. And I know it's not as witty or dramatic as P&P, but I find it much more achingly romantic (to borrow a phrase used in a review of Atonement.) There is an art to longing that modern writers just don't get like Austen does--that delicious sense of waiting and wishing, hope against all hope. Even if we expect a happy ending from Austen (and even if we've read the book twelve times already) we still suspend our disbelief and hold our breath to see whose pride will stand in the way and whose heart will give in first. While Captain Wentworth is not as dashing and brooding as Darcy, there is a sweetness and gallantry that I admire, and that letter is truly swoon-worthy, better in my opinion than Darcy's arrogant declaration of love.

    By the way, I am enjoying your Jane in June month so far! Great idea!

  2. I know a lot of readers have a problem with Anne letting Wentworth into her life at the end after his flirtation right in front of her. But I was never convinced that he was serious about anyone other than Anne. Don't we all wish for the man to wise up and realize the who's the right woman for him?

  3. Persuasion is delightful. I like "achingly romantic". And that letter at the end makes you forgive all the flirting. Only true lover could write something like that. I wonder if Jane didn't put some of her own feelings into it as she wrote it.

  4. How irritatingly silly is Louisa Musgrove? Don't you all want to strangle her?

    (Slightly OT: the actor playing Capt. Wentworth in the 2007 version of Persuasion is so very handsome - maybe even too much so? For some reason I pictured him as dark-haired, dark-eyed, very tan, with a bit of a crooked nose. Or maybe I've been channelling Sir Elliot?)

  5. This is my favorite Austen, and Wentworth is coming for me :P I just know it.

    Rupert Penry-Jones that plays him in the 2007 movie is gooorgeous. Really. Let me wipe the drool off my chin from just thinking about him.

    I never thought about it being the closest we get to Jane's actual life...nice idea you have there.

    Also, I love the word rootforable and I shall be adopting it.

  6. No technical analysis, no literary criticism. I love Persuasion. It was the last of the six major novels I read and it has become the first in my heart since then. I feel I am Anne Elliot, she is the Austen heroine I'm the closest to. Delayed gratification makes everything so perfect in the end. One of the most romantic novels I've ever read.

  7. Have you looked at the most popular review of Persuasion on GoodReads? I love it. It says something about how Anne is in danger of just slipping away, she's so overlooked. To know that her family discouraged her love at first, then didn't sustain her in any meaningful way, and then Wentworth found it in himself to forgive and forget and save her from a lifetime of obscurity. You know she just blooms as soon as they're together again and fully becomes the woman she's meant to be.

  8. There is something about the sense of yearning in Persuasion that tugs at your heartstrings.

    I think the love story of the older woman is especially moving.

    Rupert Penry-Jones is quite gorgeous but does seem to have a talent for the melancholy, which he also displayed brilliantly in Spooks.


Tell me all your thoughts.
Let's be best friends.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...